How can you make meaningful resolutions for 2018? Maybe not something like “adopt more healthy habits”, which can be hard to do. How about resolving to work on something that research shows is foundational to healthy habits and healthy motivations?
Cultivating a sense of purpose in life has been shown to affect health and longevity through numerous avenues of study. Those with a sense of purpose follow exercise programs more faithfully, have reduced risk of Alzheimer’s and heart attack or stroke, and may follow medical advice such as breast self-examination more regularly.
From time to time in our practice we run across people who seem to do everything wrong, in terms of typical MoodSurfing strategies, but who nevertheless are living very creative and successful lives. Very often the reason they can get away with it is because they have the “Super Mood Stabilizer” – a sense of purpose: a clear sense of what they want to do in their life and a dedication to doing it.
Similarly, when we find people who are really using all the strategies to live well, but are not doing so, it is often the case that their life has lost its sense of any meaning other than mastering their moods.
Finding your own sense of purpose in life might just be one of the most meaningful resolutions of all!
So here are some questions to reflect on as the year turns and resolutions are made:
What important tasks do I need to accomplish or make progress on in the coming year?
- Tasks could be related to child raising, elder care, education or work, or could be something personal like learn to fly an airplane or play the piano.
What full and true emotional experiences or loves have I had in the past year, and how do I want them to continue?
- Maybe you were deeply moved by an art exhibit, concert or movie. Maybe you felt motivated to engage in some kind of political action for a cause that energized you. Maybe someone needed you, not necessarily in a romantic or care-giver role, maybe just as a friend or acquaintance. These could be indicators for you towards your life’s meaning.
How do I look at the “bad stuff” in life?
- Stuff happens to all of us, and how we face it shows where inner strength comes from. Do I resolve to face my problems and move on through them, or do I spend too much time asking “why me?” This reflection is a strong pointer to show us our basic sense of purpose in life. If suffering is just a bump in the road on the way to something better, then that “something better” is the foundational purpose of life.
Finding your sense of purpose in life will give you a super mood stabilizer, and a foundation on which you can build better, healthier habits throughout your life, not just a way of developing more meaningful resolutions for 2018.
Below are some books that expand on these ideas. Please add a comment if you have read one of them, or have other responses.